Money has always been a funny topic for me. I think this is also true for most people that have been alive. I grew up thinking that money was linear. By linear I mean that money was predictable and straight forward. One dollar could buy one dollars worth of stuff.
When I was a child one dollar could buy me and a friend about as many chips as we could eat. Me and my couple of friends often found ourselves walking down to our friends at the Chinese takeaways shop and doing just that; buying chips. If you put one dollar into a piggy bank you could take that dollar out at a later stage, like next week, and still use it to purchase enough chips to put a greasy smile on two children. I thought money was linear. Linear, as in straightforward like a line.
I can remember the first time I had one hundred dollars in my piggy bank. I was probably about six. I thought I was rich beyond measure! I had put my dollars that I found or earnt or stole (just joking) into my piggy bank - which was probably a sock - and put that money into the bank (a real bank). Slowly I had added to it, dollar by dollar, like a line graph going up in dollar increments. Until I had one hundred dollars. Linear.
One day however I found a lego thing that I wanted (girls had barbies, boys had lego). I remember it cost about twenty six dollars. I bought it and I enjoyed it. My little lego toy. But to my absolute horror I found that now I no longer had one hundred dollars in my bank! I no longer possessed riches beyond measure! It was that day I realised that my money didn't just buy chips from Chinese people, it bought lego too. Money went up and money went down, but it was still linear, it still made sense to me.
Many years have past and now it takes more like two dollars to fill the stomach of me and a friend with chips from the same Chinese people. Money too has taken on a different world of meaning. One hundred dollars which seemed like so much twenty years ago, now has little value.
I have learnt a thing or two about money. First, if you have debt you have exponentially less money. Second, if you have savings you have exponentially more money. I have also discovered that two dollars buys varying amounts of chips. At a quiet beachside takeaways shop two dollars will buy enough chips to feed a whale. Where as at McDonalds two dollars chips will not feed a whale.
All this aside, money still seemed linear... sort of. You put in and you take out more or less the same amount you started with. Sometimes you do well, sometimes you do not do as well. This is the world of money we all know. Sometimes crazy things happen with our money. However, we can basically understand what is going on with it - Money seems to be linear.
In 2011 New Zealand hosted the rugby world cup. Funnily enough we won. I watched the final with some friends down at a bar on Auckland's viaduct. There was about one million other people in the bar.
It was an amazing feeling knowing that pretty much the whole of New Zealand were screaming their insides out at T.V. screens all round the country. People in the bar were also screaming at T.V. screens. Some people even climbed on them, then they broke, so they turned and screamed at other ones.
Then I found a phone. "I found a phone!" I screamed. Then I swallowed it whole... just joking. I tried to find the owner of this phone as it was the kind of phone that they probably didn't want to loose. I had no luck, so I slipped the phone into my pocket and resumed screaming at the T.V. screens.
The next day the phone in my pocket rang and I assured the person on the other end that I did not steal their phone. I also told them that if they gave me their address I would send it to them that day. They asked for my bank details so they could give me some money for the courier but I said not to worry about that. They seemed surprised, but they told me their address and that was that. The courier cost three dollars fifty, that could have bought chips for me and two and a half other people.
Wasn't that nice...
Six months later I got a envelope. It had a five dollars note in it, a ticket to a game, and a chocolate bar... I think. The only writing on the envelope said "belated thanks for returning my phone".
Now hold the phone a minute (mind the pun). I spent three dollars fifty on a courier, and six months later it turned into five dollars, a ticket to a game and a chocolate bar. Now I did a few rough sums in my head and calculated that in six months that three dollars fifty would have earnt me about seven cents, or maybe five cents in interest. The variance between five cents and the amount of interest I received was a little different. Actually it was crazy different. Crazy different!
We could make many comments about this. But let me suggest that my small act of kindness (it was very small), was for the owner of the phone a taste of what the world could be like. It was a taste of the Kingdom Jesus talked about. The response from the owner of the phone was also a taste of what the Kingdom could be like.
Now money in the Kingdom, unlike the usual buy and sell of life, is not linear. It is not a fair trade in the sense that you get what you pay for. It is way better than a fair trade. It is more like magic.
Let me blatantly contradict myself - you will not become rich following Jesus. You will become rich following Jesus.
Another apparent contradiction - we are called by Jesus to be both very wise, and very foolish with our money.
Money seems to be mostly linear - but also can be a little magic.
So what does this all have to do with a fish? It all started with a fish. When Jesus was asked a perfectly sensible and linear question about paying tax (Matt 17 verses 24-27), he told Peter to go have a look in a fish. Magic.
Crazy, magic, money fish!
Just follow Jesus.
Jared Diprose is a graduate from Carey Baptist College in New Zealand. He has been a youth pastor, and currently is working as a freelance contractor. In his spare time he makes surfboards.
Jared Diprose' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jared-diprose.html